|Southwest Asia News Digest
U.S. Follies: 'We Are Losing' in Iraq
"Making the world safe for poppy cultivation" was the description of U.S. policy in Afghanistan expressed at the Jan. 11 panel discussion presented by the Middle East Policy Council, the well-respected think tank, which has opposed the group-think tyranny of the Cheney-Bush Administration. The panel, "Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terrorism," held in a Senate hearing room, was a feisty, honest condemnation of the Bush Administration, delivered with irony and a deadly sense of humor that the neo-cons despise. Chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas. Freeman, the speakers were Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA author of "Imperial Hubris," [Anonymous]; Col. Patrick Lang (U.S. Army ret.), retired Middle East officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency; Dan Byman from the Brookings Institute; and Anatol Lieven, a British journalist, now at the Carnegie Endowment.
One anecdote set the tone for the discussion. This week, a very high-level official (who was not named at the event) of the Bush Administration just returned from the Middle East, and was invited to the Oval Office. He was asked about Iraq, and replied, "We are losing." He was then promptly asked to leave the Oval Office. EIR's sources report that the official referred to, is Richard Armitage, and that the incident is "clear proof" that the Administration has learned nothing from the disaster in Iraq, and will not admit its mistakes.
Lang, author of an article called "Drinking the Kool-Aid," about the lies going into the Iraq war, said, in his opening remarks, that the Iraq war "is not about Iraq, it is about us." Defining a split in the U.S. institutions where the present Bush government is driven, not by "reality," but by the future they are determined to shape, Lang said, "Instead of invading the Iraq that is, the government invaded the Iraq of our dreams...." The U.S. went in "with a set of dogmas instead of a set of plans," and because of this, we destroyed the Iraq state. The government "ignored the counsel of the best" in the military and the intelligence services. He said it is the height of arrogance for the U.S. to dictate what kind of world it wants to create, likening this kind of thinking to the brutish "Sergeant" character in the Stanley Kubrick movie, "Full Metal Jacket," who tells a recruit, "Remember, inside every gook, there is an American struggling to get out." Now, the question is "who's next," for this Administration, "Egypt, Jordan, Syria?"
Three broad questions posed by members of the audience led to further important comments. Michele Steinberg of EIR asked for comments about the Alberto Gonzales nomination for Attorney General; Dr. Robert Hickson, a retired Special Forces officer, asked: Where has the morality of the active duty military gone?they never spoke up, and out, against the war; and Jim Lobe from Inter Press asked what the panelists would do in Iraq, if they were President.
Freeman replied to the Gonzales question, with another question: Can you expect anything other than an Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales, from the Administration that kicks a high-ranking official out of the Oval Office for telling the truth about Iraq, and fires everyone from the cabinet, except those responsible for the Iraq war.
When Byman made a half-hearted defense of the Abu Ghraib interrogations, saying that "counterinsurgency warfare is dirty warfare," Lang countered, saying, "That's crap!"to blame the Abu Ghraib abuses on this or that type of warfare. Lang suggested that anyone concerned about the torture policy should read the book Battle for the Casbah, where the French tortured prisoners to get information, got the information, and then killed them anyway ... and lost. "If you go down that path, there is no return." Lievenin typical British fashionfirst said that the Americans had behaved, overall, "with restraint"; but then he told the bare truth: the Gonzales appointment is a "slap in the face" to every democrat in the Middle East, and to every European who wants to help in the war against terrorism. It is grotesque to have the Americans practicing torture, and condoning it, but then waving around a call for democracy.
On the failure of morality in the military? Freeman said that this very question was what he and others on the panel had been grappling with.
Scheuer said that question goes to the heart of the problem: The 9/11 Commission, the Goss and Roberts intelligence committees, were all failures! No one in Bush's government, or in Congress, was willing to "tell the emperor that he has no clothes." He said that analysts cannot tell if their work is being studied, and understood. Former CIA director George Tenet wanted to be the top briefer; it's a farce when somebody has to warn the President every day that the country is in danger. Lang cited his "Drinking the Kool-Aid" piece, and said that if officers don't speak up to tell the truth, then why do they even exist? He drew the analogy between the American military leaders' relationship to George W. Bush and Hitler's relationship to General Keitelwho was executed at Nuremburg.
On getting out of Iraq: Lang said that "the cargo has already fallen off the cliff," and nothing can save it. But, taking a regional, long-term, U.S. mission approach, he said the U.S. must commit a force large enough to provide a protective shield for any elected government to get itself organized, and to gain the credibility with the population to accept it as a government. It must have time to do thisa long time. The U.S. destroyed Iraq, but is responsible for protecting the population and letting the country rebuild.
Scheuer disagreed vehemently: He said that the U.S. "has no interest in Iraq," whatsoever, because the U.S. had destroyed any potential for an interest; there is no reason to waste any more lives on Iraq; the 1,300 people who died there already, died for nothing, because the policy was rotten. Freeman concluded that the U.S. must fix the messIraq is only hopeless because of this Administration's policies and pigheadedness, and agreed with Lang that the problem is "here," in Washington.
Syria at Center of Russian-Israel Crisis
The "cause" of the mysterious "crisis" between Russia and Israel, which has been mentioned in the Israeli press recently, was finally revealed on Jan. 12, when the Moscow daily Kommersant claimed that Israel is angry at alleged intentions of Russia to sell Syria the Iskander E missile. The latter is a very new, and highly capable, ballistic missile with a range of 280 kilometers which can hit most targets in Israel. Israel reportedly briefed the U.S. on the issue, but did not ask the U.S. to intervene.
These complaints by Ariel Sharon's Israel come in anticipation of Syrian President Bashar Assad's scheduled visit to Moscow on Jan. 24, when he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and ask for the missiles and other weapons.
Israeli commentator Amir Oren, writing in Ha'aretz, on Jan. 12, indicated that Israeli and U.S. policy is responsible for what could be a replay of the type of East-West rivalry and arms race in the region that was seen in the 1970s. First, he points out that Israel's flaunting of its military power in the face of Syria's weakness, including bombing targets in Syria and Syrian targets in Lebanon, as well as conducting overflights over Assad's Presidential palace, has prompted Assad to seek Russian help in upgrading Syrian air defense systems.
Oren compared these strikes to 1969 and 1970, when during the "War of Attrition" between Israel and Egypt, Israel launched deep air strikes against Egypt, prompting then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser to acquire sophisticated Russian air defense systems, which inflicted very heavy losses on the Israeli air force in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
As for Russia, Oren writes that Putin is angry at Bush because of the U.S.'s establishment of military bases in Central Asia, the expansion of NATO, and the recent Ukrainian elections. He reports that the Israeli Foreign Ministry's own think tank has been warning recently of the formation of a "Sino-Russian Axis as a counterweight to the American supremacy in the world, which would have a bad influence on Israel's strategic position."
Following protests by Israel, U.S. State Dept. spokesman, Richard Boucher told reporters at the regular State Dept. briefing of Jan. 12, "We're against the sale of weaponry to Syria ... which is a state sponsor of terrorism.... The Russians know about this policy. They know about our views." Powell also brought the issue up in discussions with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was in Washington, and denied that such a sale is being planned by Russia (see Russia digest).
Is Israeli Complaint Over Russia-Syria Arms Sales a Ruse?
Israeli complaints about the alleged Russian missile sales to Syria may be a ruse to back up new neo-conservative propaganda to attempt to get the U.S. to attack Syria.
UPI journalist Richard Sale reported in a Jan. 12 wire story that there is a drumbeat from the military commanders in Iraq, and the neo-cons in Washington, to blame the Iraq insurgency on Syria. Helping that campaign along, is an ex-intelligence official from Israel, Gal Luft, and the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB) run by Islam-hater, neo-con fanatic Daniel Pipes. The MEIB reported that Syria is the base for ex-Ba'ath officials, and secret agents of the Mukharbarat, Saddam Hussein's intelligence service. MEIB's Gary Gambrill also claims that a top deputy of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is headquartered in Syria, from where he runs the insurgency.
Some Pentagon hawks are pushing for military strikes against so-called terrorist camps in Syria to "stop" the Iraq insurgency, reports Sale. But, Martha Kessler, a retired CIA analyst, and one of the most knowledgeable experts on Syria, said that, "Damascus is not the heartbeat of this Iraqi insurgent movement." In fact, Syria has offered help to the U.S. in fighting al-Qaeda, but "has been snubbed," Kessler said.
Sharon Orders All Contacts With Mahmoud Abbas Ended
It did not take long for Ariel Sharon to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) the "Arafat treatment." On Jan. 14, just five days after the Abbas election, Sharon's spokesman, Assaf Sharif announced that all contacts by Israelis with the Palestinian Authority are suspended; and "Israel informed international leaders today that there will be no meetings with [President] Abbas until he makes a real effort to stop terror." Palestinian officials say it is ridiculous to hold Abu Mazen responsible for the attackhe only took office on Jan. 15.
The excuse for suspending all contact, is a joint attack carried out by Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades on Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Karni checkpoint crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. An explosion at this facility, which is a large depot for transporting of food, merchandise, and other supplies, including medicine, killed six Israelis, and seriously injured four others.
Israeli sources report that a large explosion blew up a door that separated the Israeli and Palestinian sides at the Karni crossing, and then, Palestinian gunmen opened fire. Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli security guards who returned fire. Israelis counterattacked massively on Jan. 14, including by firing two missiles from an Israeli Air Force helicopter at a Palestinian medical center in the Deir el Balah refugee camp in the Gaza strip. The Israelis claim that the medical center is run by a charity, Al Salah, that is linked to Hamas.
On Jan. 14, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and IDF chief-of-staff Moshe Ya'alon imposed a total lockdown of all crossings in the Gaza Strip that provide access to Egypt and Israel, "until the Palestinians take steps to fight terrorism." That is, until Sharon and his generals say that the Palestinians have taken steps to stop terrorism.
The world knows that Hamas, the Islami Jihad, and other militant groups boycotted the Jan. 9 elections, and that after three years of invasion, occupation, and thousands of Israeli tank and airstrikes on Palestinian Authority facilities, including police stations, and government records, there is no way that the PA can handle "security" matters.
The Sharon cancellation of all contacts with the Palestinians has been praised by right-wing extremists in Israel and Washington, D.C., as a sure sign that Washington will follow suit, and that Bush will once again sideline the Palestinian people.